Amendment would bar medical-pot raids

Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-N.Y.) plans to introduce an amendment next week that would prevent the federal government from going after medical marijuana users, a law-enforcement action the Supreme Court yesterday ruled is constitutional.

The court did not strike down state laws allowing medical marijuana use, nor did it require a federal crackdown. Rather, the court ruled that the federal government has the authority to prosecute people with a prescription for pot in states where the practice is legal.

The House is expected to take up science-state-justice-commerce appropriation legislation next week, and Hinchey plans to offer an amendment to bar the Justice Department from spending money to arrest and prosecute medical marijuana users.

Hinchey’s amendment is not a response to the Supreme Court ruling. He has offered it three times since 2001 and was planning to introduce it again this year even before yesterday’s ruling.

The House rejected the amendment last year, 268-148.

“We hope that the amendment will keep growing in support every year, but we are realistic that there probably won’t be a huge jump,” said Wendy Darwell, Hinchey’s chief of staff.

The court case stems from a 2002 Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) raid in Butte County, Calif.

Angel McClary and Diane Monson, both medical marijuana users, sued the federal government after DEA agents and local sheriff’s deputies raided Monson’s home on Aug. 15, 2002, and destroyed her marijuana.

DEA spokesman Bill Grant said the agency does not keep track of how often it busts medical marijuana users because its mission is to go after large-scale drug-trafficking operations, not individual users.

California and nine other states have laws allowing marijuana use for medicinal purposes.

The Supreme Court’s 6-3 ruling yesterday reversed an earlier decision of the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Darwell said Hinchey’s office is studying the ruling and is not sure if it will require changes to the planned amendment.